So while doing some pirate research for the play I’m writing I stumbled upon one of the most amazing things I’ve ever read. In the 5th century A.D. there was a Scandinavian princess called Alwilda who’s father tried to set her up to marry Alf, the Prince of Denmark. Alwilda wasn’t cool with this so she and some female companions dressed as men, stole a ship, and sailed away. Eventually they met a company of pirates who were in need of a new captain and they were so captivated by her that they elected her as their new leader. Her crew became so infamous that Prince Alf was sent out to stop them. When their ships met he took Alwilda prisoner and she was so impressed by Alf’s skill that she agreed to marry him after all and eventually became the Queen of Denmark.
I stopped caring whether this was factually accurate about halfway through because it’s completely AWESOME.
Medievalist here for triumphant fact-checking: this story is, if not true, at least true according to the history of the Danes (Gesta Danorum) written in the 12th century by Saxo Grammaticus. You can read his account of Alwilda’s story in the original Latin here, or in English translation here. Highlights include:
She exchanged woman’s for man’s attire, and, no longer the most modest of maidens, began the life of a warlike rover. Enrolling in her service many maidens who were of the same mind, she happened to come to a spot where a band of rovers were lamenting the death of their captain, who had been lost in war; they made her their rover captain.
I love the implication that there were lots of Danish maidens just WAITING for the opportunity of a life of piracy…
Reblogging my old post for this A+ addition to it